TRANSCRIPT: The Fight for Affordable Housing

Below is the transcript from my interview with Chris Asmar, Co-lead of Urban Environmentalists IL. This transcript was generated by AI and lightly edited. Please listen to the full episode to experience the content in its native form.

CA- Chris Asmar, AMW - Awoe Mauna-Woanya

Awoe: [00:00:00] Hi, Chris. Really good to see you again. I'm really excited for you to be here with Foster on Earth with me. And without further ado, let's just jump right into it. Just tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into this space working with the Urban Environmentalist and, and yeah, just feel free just to tell me everything.

Chris A.: Yeah, for sure. Thank you for having me. I'm excited for the conversation. Yeah, in terms of how I got into this in my adult career, I've moved around to a lot of different cities. I grew up [00:01:00] in Massachusetts, just south of Boston, lived there for a while. I moved to Washington, DC was there for a couple of years.

I moved to Los Angeles after that. And then after five years there, I spent another five years up in Seattle and then moved to Chicago last summer. So I've been here for about a year now. Really the, it wasn't until I moved to the West coast that urban design and how central it is to our lives really jumped out to me.

As a person who's never owned a car living in LA and trying to get around primarily on trains and on bikes it kind of broke my brain a little bit when I realized that not everywhere is really set up well for that. So I started to volunteer and get involved with those sort of things a little bit more when I lived in LA and again in Seattle.

And it also brought to my attention as I was starting to think about transit and about how the city is designed that where people live, where housing is built, how [00:02:00] all of that is designed as well also has a huge impact on how people are able to live. Housing prices in Seattle now they're saying are just as bad as it is in San Francisco.

 So basically when I moved to Chicago, I had sort of been woken up to all this and that this is going on in a lot of our cities and I wanted to get out in front of it. Chicago is. Housing price wise, not as bad as the East coast or the West coast yet, but prices are still going up and everything's relative.

There's still a lot of people that live here and have lived here for generations who live in poorer neighborhoods, which typically tends to also coincide with being more black neighborhoods that are already getting priced out. So as I moved here, I wanted to get out in front of it, wanted to work with an organization that would allow me to have a bit of an impact on that.

So I found Urban Environmentalists. Right after I moved here, really, I'd actually already been following them through Twitter and through some other things, some of their other partner organizations that I'd seen. So I knew a little bit about it already, and it engaged with it a little bit already. And so I'm a co lead here in the Illinois [00:03:00] chapter of urban environmentalists. And basically what that means is that I just try to keep things organized. We're pretty loosely organized. So I work with all the other volunteers. I'm, I'm a volunteer myself trying to plan our, and get the words out about our events, trying to help other on. Volunteers understand how they can be more helpful and impactful, whether that's, you know, going to a local meeting in their neighborhood, whether that's sharing and signing petitions, calling their elder person, that's Chicago city councilor, or whatever it might be, just trying to help get the word out about whatever's going on, that we can promote the, the things that we're trying to get done.

No, that sounds awesome. And if you've mentioned your work with Urban Environmentalist, just, can you tell me a bit, like, what is the group? Who are the Urban Environmentalists? What are some of the challenges you're facing and like, how do you work to address these as your volunteers? It was a group of volunteers.

Like how do folks, you know, like what's, tell me more about the work that Urban Environmentalists do. Yeah, for sure. So Urban Environmentalists is a, it's a nationwide network of local [00:04:00] organizations. Like I said, I'm, I'm a co lead of the Illinois chapter. We're focused on building more just, more equitable and more sustainable communities.

We focus largely on cities and kind of the bigger cities, but it's really about, you know, entire regions, entire networks of places that you have to, to keep those kinds of things in mind for the, the main things that we focus on to get that done are. I've talked a little bit about this already, the expansion of options beyond just driving a private car to get around transit and bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure and wheelchair accessibility and everything else like that, and also land use reform, making sure that the laws, the zoning laws in those particular places are actually designed in a way where we can build housing and we can keep housing affordable or make it more affordable.

You know, and we push for that kind of legislation. That's the sort of thing that we're, we're trying to do. Individual city challenges that we face, you know, their prices of housing are skyrocketing all over the place. That's not just a financial problem that leads to displacement, at least [00:05:00] gentrification that leads to social problems.

People feel disconnected from each other and. You know, the lack of viable transportation options, it gives people kind of forces people to drive. And if you're forced to drive, you're going to have a negative impact on climate. You're going to, you know, again, have that negative impact on your wallet, having to pay that insurance, have to pay those car payments everything else that goes along with that.

So, you know, you bundle all that together and we try to. Organize people to, to just open up those options so that we can actually have the ability to choose where we want to live and to choose to have a less impactful way of getting around the city. Everything you're saying, you know, it's music to my ears about the work that you all are doing, you know, like here at Fostering Our Earth, I really want folks to think about the relationships between, you know, the lives that we live every day and then, you know, the built environment.

Whether it's housing and mobility and sort of the systems that play, you know, whether it's policy, political systems or infrastructure systems and the [00:06:00] relationship between that and like community building and also climate and it's really creative. You know, there are a lot of challenges in each of these aspects of, the built environment, our cities, and it's really important that we have folks like urban environmentalist working to fight for a better future.

And so the work that you do with urban environment. So this is really awesome. Think what you guys think what you said is awesome. It's like the most important first step. I know, like I said, I didn't really start paying attention to this until my early twenties when I moved out West because up until that point, well, just, this is just how the world is, you know, I know there's a train here.

There's not a train here or there's housing here. There's not housing here. That's just, nobody, nobody purposely did this. That's just the way it's always been. It wasn't until a little later on where I'm like, Oh, no, actually somebody who really seriously designed this and, and actually demolished, you know, you talk about LA and their transit system.

There used to be streetcars everywhere. They're gone. It's very deliberate. It's very, very much done on purpose. The way these structures are set up so we can, we can change them. We remade them up. We can, we [00:07:00] can make them different.

Yeah, right there. Honestly, right there. Like we made it up and we can change it, that's like the hope that I want folks to keep having, and like be inspired to act on I.

Live in L. A. Right now. And I'm also car free. And so I use the transit system a lot. And, just using the transit system, you get to see some of the challenges that you really are awakened to how car dependent our society is. And when you start looking at it through that, car and transit lens, you then start to see.

 Why are neighborhoods so far away from where we want to go? You know, and like, you start to see, wow, there's parking everywhere. And there's so little room for pedestrians to walk. And all these like little, all these facets of ultimately land use, you know, you're talking about land use reform through urban environmentalists.

And you really start to like open your eyes to these issues that you think like, this can be, it has to be better, you know, cause then we tech against issues. You know, homelessness and, you know, the housing crisis, which we'll, we'll, we'll talk about soon with that from the mission of the urban about mentalist, you know, it's sort of what, as you described and [00:08:00] from the, the website, you know, it says that your aim is to transform cities into sustainable, just, and human centered communities through land use reform policy.

 Could you talk a bit about what. That is what is land use reform policy, and I guess maybe it's relation to greenhouse gas emissions. And yeah, like, what does that mean? And what does that really entail?

Yeah, for sure. So. Let me talk about what people tend to think about when they think land use policy, because I think a lot of the people that I've talked to when.

We start talking about these issues and maybe it's their first time engaging with this really seriously. Well, they say, you know, oh, yeah, if you want to live in an apartment, go live in an apartment. If I want to live in my single family house, let me live in my single family house. And to a certain extent, I don't disagree with that.

Or, you know, there's, there's. I'm sure we'll get into the strange conspiracy theories and things that have been talked about a little later on, but at the end of the day, yeah, that's exactly what we're trying to do. The problem is that when you think about land use policy now [00:09:00] and what you're actually allowed to build, zoning laws have often been changed or updated so that you actually can't build more housing in a lot of cities.

So in places like LA, like Chicago, like San Francisco, like Seattle. Sometimes 70, 80, 90 percent of the actual land in the city. Is designated for single family housing only. So even if you own a single family house and you wanted to turn it into a two family or a triple decker or something like that, you actually legally can't.

It's, it's not, you're not allowed to do that. So what we don't want is for cities to come in and say, Hey, we're going to demolish all the single family homes and build 50 story skyscrapers. That's, that's crazy. That's not necessary. In places like Seattle, if they just opened it up to be able to build two families or three families.

And did, I don't remember the exact number off the top of my head, but something like 20 percent of the land in the city was opened up to that, then we, you would solve the housing crisis. It would bring [00:10:00] numbers under control. The price is under control. You know, this isn't about completely converting the way places look.

So when we talk about land use policy, it's really just about what are we allowed to do and, you know, what are we actually allowed to build the, the reason why we have these housing crises and why things are getting so out of hand, it's, it's a little more complex than this, but it's largely comes down to supply and demand.

There are a lot of people that want to move to places like LA and San Francisco and Seattle and New York and Boston and Chicago, and there's only a certain amount of housing there, so more people come into these places, they're looking , for homes, oftentimes the people moving into these places are wealthier people who are coming in for jobs.

You know, that's. Think about Seattle when I lived there, you know, who's based in Seattle. You've got Amazon there, you've got Starbucks there, you've got Microsoft there, you've got T Mobile based there, all sorts of companies. These are not people that are coming in looking for the lowest [00:11:00] possible tier of housing.

So what landlords do and what building owners do is they say, well, we're not building anything new, but we can jack up the prices of what's already here. So that these people who have a little bit more money to spend, you know, we're going to cater to them and we're going to get that money for ourselves.

So if you don't build more supply, what ends up happening is that there's just more demand for that small supply that already exists. The people who have already lived there, possibly in some cases for generations, they get pushed out. So when we talk about land use and land use reform. We really are just talking about accepting and admitting that people are moving here.

They want to be here. It's exciting. I like it. New neighbors, you know, it's, it's cool. I want when people move here, I want to take them out to my favorite restaurant. I want to bring them someplace. It's great. I love it. And we should be building to accommodate those people. We should be building to welcome those people in.

And also building in a way that doesn't force out the people who have already lived there for years or decades or even generations.[00:12:00]

 You're hitting on tons of good points, even just the whole idea of supply and demand and also like the price of construction. And it just makes me think about, the ideas of urban sprawl and how we also keep building further out, which we could tie that into that leads to us driving more.

And so I guess, it sounds like the issue is zoning. And I've seen policies around the country that talk about, Oh, X city, has banned to remove single family zoning , for future, for new construction.

Like, how hard is it to change these laws? Because when I look outside, I live, like I said, I live in LA, and there are tons of people experiencing homelessness, and even if it's not someone who's experiencing homelessness, but It's expensive. Like you said, like the prices have gone up so much and like our incomes can't match that and so that people are housing cost burdened, you know, and.

So if it's so clearly, there's this housing, [00:13:00] affordable housing issue, and housing is so expensive. Why is it so hard for us to change the law?

Chris A.: Yeah, there's, there's a lot of reasons. I think one of the biggest ones is that oftentimes people just don't like change.

You know, it's a lot easier to say, well, I moved here and I was able to buy something. You know, or even just rent and I'm doing fine. Why can't everyone else just do what I'm doing? You know, there's, there's that kind of mentality. There's also the mentality. I saw this a lot when I lived in Seattle that, you know, we don't, we don't want to be New York city.

You know, we're Seattle, we're different. We don't want this to be Manhattan and totally, I hear you. We could add millions and millions of people to see how this population is still wouldn't be close. So we, we've got some space for that kind of thing. Yeah, there's, there's a lot of preconceived notions and a lot of concerns about what is actually meant by a lot of this.

You know, I mentioned the idea that some people have around. Well, if you eliminate single family housing or [00:14:00] zoning and a single family house, then you're going to kick me out of my house and build a 40 story apartment building there. No, that's, that's not what's happening. We're actually freeing you up.

If you wanted to build a two family home or an ADU accessory dwelling units, you know, granny flat, whatever you want to call it on your, your own land. You can totally do that. Again, in a lot of places that's illegal right now. So we're really just trying to open it up to, to make these things possible at all.

And when you build more, there's, there's more to it than just building more. I should say that. But when that's. Really the first step in leveling out these prices so that people can actually afford to live there is, you know, building the housing, actually having it there. You know, once people talk about, you know, drug addiction, people talk about lack of jobs.

We'll talk about all these things, but the number one reason why most people who are homeless in the United States are homeless is because they can't afford housing. There are a lot of very [00:15:00] wealthy people with. Drug problems. You don't see them living on the street because they can afford housing. Yeah.

The, the, you want to tackle all these issues, but at the end of the day, if, if the goal we're focused on is housing people and affordable housing, building the housing is the first step. Now there's a lot of other things that go along with this too, around, you know, some, how you do subsidies and how you do tax subsidies and all these other policies as well.

But at the beginning, that's, that's really the first thing is building it. And so to go back to your original question around. You know, what are the obstacles? Why is it so hard? Why is it so slow? I think that, you know, we, when we talk about what we want to do, we really need to convince people that this is going to be a net positive for themselves, for their, you know, for their descendants, for their children as well.

You know, for their wallets in the short term and all of that is true. You know, you, you, you bring people in, you bring more people into a place. Your tax burden goes down because there's more people to split it. Businesses have more people that they can engage with. And I can just walk up the street to the store rather than having to [00:16:00] drive, you know, to Costco 20 miles away or whatever it is.

It, it really is beneficial. And again, you know, if, if even your main, your only concern is just, well, I don't wanna look at homeless people as I walk down the street. Well, guess what? it fixes that too. I'd probably frame that a little bit differently personally, but if that's really your only concern, then then great.

We're fixing that too, you know, so, yeah. Yeah. It's so we have a lot of convincing to do and a lot of, engagement to do, and that is really at the core of a lot of the work that we do, is just trying to talk to people locally and help them understand what this actually means, what it's going to accomplish, and that, yes, there will be changes, but they'll be, they'll be positive.

They'll be good for everybody, including you and me and everyone else. The opposition often only just has to plant a seed to say, well, you know, I don't, I don't really think this is a great idea. And if they can get, they lodge that in your head, then, you know, we've, a lot of times we've kind of lost that person.

They don't really need a good reason. They just need to be a little, a little concerned and maybe they'll vote against it or they'll vote for a representative who would vote against [00:17:00] it. So I think in a lot of cases, we just have a lot more convincing to do. And it takes a lot more time and a lot more on the ground engagement than, you know, well, you know, I heard, I mean, I remember this as far back as when I was a kid, they wanted to rebuild the commuter rail train line back to my suburb of Boston and people were railing then saying, you know, people from, from the city are going to.

They're going to come out on the train to our small town and, and rob our houses. It's like, no, that's not going to happen. Right. And it didn't. And it was an economic boom for everybody, you know, when they actually did end up building it. It's been a huge positive for the, for the whole region. So there's just a lot of that kind of stuff that you have to.

You have to help people understand and that's a tough conversation because it can be frustrating, but you don't want to get frustrated with people you want to engage them, you know, where their understanding of the issue is that and help them understand why this is a good thing.

Awoe: No, absolutely. And honestly, like so many points here, I could like, [00:18:00] well, we could hit on.

Each one a little bit more. But, the most recent point on you're thinking about the expansion of transit, this commuter rail line into your neighborhood. I totally feel that, like, in my hometown, my home is in Baltimore, like Baltimore County. And like, having.

You see so many of these types of issues of like, when we say like expanding transit options, you know, to, from the city to the county, which makes it easier for everyone to go between the different locations, folks, sort of shy away from that, and they'll, they'll oppose that, saying that like, Oh, we don't want certain people in our neighborhoods , and this will allow different types of people to come in here.

And these are just sort of prejudices that people have and prejudice, yeah, prejudices and stereotypes about marginalized communities and sort of like this is faux racism, presented as a housing issue or as like a transit issue. And a lot of that, you know, we see that tied with the term, you know, nimbyism, not in my backyard, uh, [00:19:00] and it's this term that's often associated with housing.

Could you just sort of like, maybe just define it and talk about, I mean, we're sort of seeing how it comes out, but maybe a little bit more formally, let's like. Say, like, what is NIMBYism and what is this NIMBYism movement and how do we combat it? Because you're saying a lot about, we need to change people's minds and people need to understand the relationship between, well, housing is really expensive, and the reason people are on the street is because they can't afford it, but yet your opposition to housing, you know, prevents that from happening. So, yeah, could you just talk about what NIMBYism means to you and in your work?

Chris A.: Yeah, for sure. So... In case people haven't ever heard the term at all before, NIMBY, it's an acronym, means not in my backyard. Basically, the reason why the word NIMBY came about as sort of a term for a person that believes in a particular policy is because that generally was what they were saying.

You know, I don't want this thing to be built in my backyard, in my neighborhood, in my town, whatever [00:20:00] that. So there are a lot of people that are really outwardly just, you know, Hey, I don't want this built at all. I don't want this done at all. I actually found those people easier to engage with because that's just, it's really, it's a real solid line.

Hey, we don't, we don't think we should be building any more housing anywhere. Done. Okay. Like, I don't agree with you, but I get that. All right, fine. We can talk about that. The, the harder form of NIMBY that you, I think you often find is Especially in, you know, your quote unquote, more liberal cities is the one that is not in my backyard.

Meaning, oh, yeah, we, someone should absolutely build this. We should absolutely build this somewhere, but you know, not, not here. Oh yeah, these people should absolutely be able to have affordable housing. I just, I don't want it near me. You know, I, that's, that's the one that's tough. And I think it's a harder conversation to have because I think it's easier, for people to convince themselves that they're really on the right side of things when in reality, you know, they're, they're [00:21:00] causing just as much of a problem if the goal is to house people, if the goal is to build.

Better transit or better bike lanes or whatever it might be. So you kind of have to take that whole group as a whole. Really what we're trying to say is you can't be a NIMBY and really be working towards solving these problems because at the end of the day. If your goal is to house people and to build more equitable transit systems and healthier and more sustainable cities, we've got to build it everywhere.

You know, it's going to be across the whole city. It's going to even be across the whole region, you know, talking about commuter rail lines. You know, we don't necessarily need to have a New York style subway out in a, in a 10, 000 person suburb out in the boonies that, that would not really be a good allocation of resources, but Hey, maybe a train line that goes out there.

So people can get into downtown easily without having to drive. That'd be great. So really there's a lot of justification that goes into the NIMBY label. And I want to be clear, I'm not trying to be [00:22:00] pejorative or anything towards anybody. I think a lot of it just comes down to.

People not fully understanding, like, like we were talking about at the top that these are design systems and if you say, well, I don't want to build it here. There's a lot of , implications that come with that. There can be, you know, okay, we're not going to build this affordable housing here, or even this new housing here in this wealthier neighborhood.

So where's it going to go? Well, it's going to go in the poorer neighborhood where people don't have as much time or political power or energy or whatever it might be to fight back against it. And if that's, you know, new affordable housing, and there's a lot of policies behind that making that work, then okay.

But oftentimes what that ends up being as well, you know, a more residential, lower density neighborhood doesn't want. You know, three flats or, five over ones or whatever, whatever kind of housing there is. So that goes into poorer neighborhoods and what usually ends up happening is gentrification because now the only place where there is [00:23:00] new housing, where are these new people moving in to go are these poorer neighborhoods.

And again, that traditionally reads, you know, more marginalized, blacker, you know, a lot of these people, I don't think have racism explicitly in mind when, when these decisions are made, but it's still, it happens and that's what the outcome is, whether it's intended or not.

So, you know, I, again, I can think of myself when I moved to Los Angeles, you know, I moved to Koreatown, which as you can imagine, from the name is not a traditionally white neighborhood, but that was really the only place I could afford housing, you know. It wasn't me coming in trying to say, you know, I want to push people out, but it, it was happening whether I liked it or not, because there was nowhere else for me to go when I, when I moved there.

So yeah, I think, again, a lot of this comes down to just people not fully understanding the impact and fully not understanding the. The design of all this and how it all, all these different things layer on top of each other. You know, a lot of NIMBY groups some that even openly identify that way.

They, they justify their position by saying that they're trying to [00:24:00] prevent gentrification. But, and they say, okay, we don't want to build him. The example I just used of, you know, the new housing going in, in the poor neighborhood they say, well, okay, so let's not build that housing.

And then people won't move in. It won't happen, but it does happen because those people are still moving to these cities. And now there's even fewer units of housing for us to compete over. So it's the wealthier read, typically wider population coming in that is able to push people out because they can compete for, for those higher rents or for those higher mortgage prices or whatever it might be.

So at the end of the day, I totally understand why people want to preserve the character of their neighborhood. I think that's actually justified and totally Right in a lot of ways, but what is the character of a neighborhood? Is it, is it the kind of building that there is there or is it the people who actually make that up?

Is it the culture that makes that up? Is it the small businesses? You know, if you push out the local coffee shop and get nothing but Starbucks, have you prevented [00:25:00] gentrification? I don't, not in my eye.

Awoe: No. Yeah, you're totally right, you, Made the statement, like, oh, you know, people aren't explicitly trying to be racist, when they are expressing their views on housing and I just want to say that, like, that just also ultimately reflects the system, you know, and that's why we're, that's why we're trying to, you know, address the system, fix the laws, because like, the laws are what enable us, or like the, the system is what ultimately enables us to like, what translates our beliefs, you know, and like, Yeah, we want this future.

We want this more sustainable, more diverse future and also defining, you know, what is a neighborhood's character? Is it what the buildings look like? You know, is it who is in that community? Is it the, if there are small businesses, because What's the point if it's just, you know, big commercial , nationwide global Starbucks and McDonald's on every corner, you know, and there's no small business, no real interaction with, who lives in your neighborhood.

And so again, all always comes back to like addressing it from the systemic point of view. You've talked to NIMBY as a, so [00:26:00] what's this, what's the YIMBY movement, you know, like the sort of like the Opposite that's arisen in opposition to the NIMBY movement.

Chris A.: Yeah, for sure. So There's an organization that Urban Environmentalist is a part of called YIMBY Action.

We're one of the chapter organizations of that as well. So we're part of a whole broader network and YIMBY, just, just like what we're talking about before, YIMBY stands for yes, in my backyard. Yes, build it here. We want it, bring it in. Let's do it. And we're really trying to say that this is an optimistic thing.

And we, like I was saying before, we, I get excited when we get new neighbors. It's. And I felt very welcomed when we moved to Chicago. Everybody has their favorite pizza place that they want to share. Everybody's got their favorite bar. Everybody's got their favorite street festival that you can go to.

They want to share with you. It's great. I love that. And I want to share that with more people. So the way, the way that you do that is you say, yeah, let's build it. These people are coming, they're moving into the city. Let's build for them. Let's [00:27:00] make this stuff work. And again, a huge part of it is giving people options, right?

If you look at most North American cities, pretty much all North American cities, they're designed around cars and designed around sort of this still present version of that American dream house where you've got your single family house. Yeah. Thank you. American dream of quotes, very important. We can come back to that, but yeah, in where you've got your single family house and you've got your picket fence and you've got your driveway and you've got your car and you drive to work and you know, it's, it's all that even pretty dense by American or North American standard cities are still organized like that in a lot of ways.

And. Again, that's fine. I'm not, if someone wants to live in a detached single family house, I'm not saying they shouldn't do that or can't do that. What we want to say is yes, let's do that. And let's also [00:28:00] have good bike infrastructure and let's also have good train infrastructure and let's also have other.

Forms of housing so that people can choose to live the way that they want to and have the freedom to do that. I love not having a car, I love getting around on my bike and we're, you know, a five minute walk from the train station here. I love that. And I don't have to worry about where I've stored my car.

I don't have to worry about if somebody is. Yeah, stealing my tires. I don't have to worry about if, you know, it's parked overnight somewhere it's not supposed to be all these things. Great. I've never thought about that. Car costs too. Yeah, all of that. Exactly. It's so, there's so many worries that I just never think about.

And when I get together with friends and they're all talking about parking and they're talking about how they found the place and they're talking about. You know, car costs, everything else. I'm just like, I don't know what you're dialing. That, that all sounds really rough and I'm sorry. We have to do it.

Yeah. I can't relate, you know, but if you want to great, that's, that's fine too. You know, the, the really important thing I think is that we're. We're not trying to take anything away from anybody, [00:29:00] even if you want to drive. If we build more bike lanes, if we build more transit and more reliable transit.

Well, if you are someone who chooses to still drive your own car anyway, we've now removed cars from the road. So there's less traffic, you know, there's a whole other thing, statistical thing we can go into around, you know, why adding more roads doesn't solve traffic, adding more lanes doesn't solve traffic, but it doesn't.

We'll just take it at that for now. It doesn't, but what does solve traffic is reducing the number of cars on the road, and that's also a big environmental. thing, because even if everybody switches to, you know, an EV tomorrow, there's still huge climate impacts from maintaining roads and from air pollution that comes off of tires.

And from all these other things, the battery manufacturing, all this other stuff, at the end of the day, if you really want to. Fix those environmental problems. And again, if we're just thinking short term, selfishly get a little less traffic on the road, the way to do that is to reduce the number of people driving cars and put a [00:30:00] few more people in bikes, put a few more people on the train where they can move more efficiently.

If you want to drive your car, it's a, it's a net win for you too.

Awoe: Yeah, totally. And folks struggle to see the connection between all of that. You know, when you hit on. Induced demand and adding lanes doesn't really fix traffic. Switching to EVs won't really solve traffic and that has its own cascades of issues.

And, the solutions are sort of this multi faceted. You know, system with bike lanes and transit and denser housing and, infill development and, transit oriented development sort of just hitting on all of the, it's all of that, you know, and our future we brought the idea of the American dream, you know, like this is an idea that, you know, as we've grown and as our needs have changed a bit, like it's, it's, it's not enough for us to like live that way.

Like that dream, is it as possible? Like, yeah. economically, environmentally, and our sustainable future will look differently. You know, our sustainable future isn't one where [00:31:00] everyone is in a single family house. And we're all sprawled out because we will have sprawled out because it takes up more land if we all have single family homes, you know, and yeah.

Chris A.: So there's plenty of there's plenty there. Yeah. Well, it's funny you say that too, because, you know, one thing I talk about with a lot of my friends who live out in the suburbs or with my parents or my parents, friends who. We're very much into this, you know, we need to get out of the city and get our, our house and our yard and all of that.

A big part of the reason that they often give for that is that, you know, we want to live in that small town community feel where everybody knows each other and everybody's connected and everybody's, but when I go home to the suburbs where my parents still live, I feel very isolated and I feel. You know, I know people in my building here.

I know people up the street. I know people, a few neighborhoods over. I know people everywhere. We went on vacation a few, a few weeks ago and I realized, well, all my plants are going to die. So I just texted one of my neighbors and said, Hey, could you go in and water our plants? [00:32:00] And yeah, and my plants are all doing great.

So that small town, you know, again, quote unquote, American dream feel it doesn't go away. Just because the house doesn't look like a Norman Rockwell painting there, you can have these communities, you can have them look in different ways. So, yeah, I just wanted to call that out because I think that is a fear that a lot of people have that, well, I haven't really been successful or I haven't really, there's, there's a lot of pressure on people to say, well, you know, I got the house and I got the car and that's the marker of.

You know, sort of middle class success or whatever you want to call it. You can be really happy without those things and that's fine. Or, or with them again, that's, that's fine. It's just, I think it's, it's helpful to, for people to understand there's different ways to do this in different ways to be happy. And that's, we're just trying to facilitate those.

Awoe: Absolutely. Sort of just to go back to NIMBY is a little bit you know, Organizations like Urban Environmentalist exists and NIMBYism exists, the, the [00:33:00] disinformation campaign of sort of spreading fear. I just sent you an email just now with a, with an image of it's a poster here going around here in LA and it's sort of like, I call it like informal grassroots campaigns, you know, on platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor or, you know, putting posters like this saying like, Metro will destroy this neighborhood if they add this rail line here.

Or, you know, just the other day I saw on my Nextdoor in my neighborhood saying like, Oh, say no to ADUs, because it'll invite different characters to our neighborhood and like Let's vote no on whatever bill is being passed, you know, and ultimately spreading like fear, you know, saying crime or homelessness is going to go up, drug use will go up, you know, and disinformation of the impact of whether it's ADUs or more rail and transit to communities like that's straight up just disinformation. I guess can you speak a little bit to like how fears used as a tactic and how we can Combat that disinformation because a lot of us, you know, [00:34:00] live like we're on social media.

We see these conversations happening when you see it happening. Like what should I do? Because like this annoys me. This frustrates me. Like, we're actively, like, here's a movement we're pushing for, and there's very much an opposite who are pushing against, you know, our pro housing, pro transit movement, and so I guess, how do we combat that?

Chris A.: Before I get into the specifics of that, I just, yeah, I just call out this poster that you sent me because it's, it's great. It's, it's one of those things that you look at sometimes and you're just like, I can't tell if this is... Satirical or if this is real, because they have so many, I know people can't see it necessarily, but you know, there's a big headline, ridiculous elevated trains.

It's like, well, what does ridiculous

mean? Like, okay, but that's just where it is. That's not kind of neutral. It ruins our community. Yeah, it ruins our community. You know, and then there's so many things, 50 foot tunnel into Hillside. Okay. That's just a number, like, [00:35:00] you know, 200 plus businesses and homes lost. That's see that, here's where it starts to get into what you're talking about.

Because it's like, okay, 200 plus businesses and homes lost. Let's assume that that's true. Which who knows if it even is, because I don't see any citations on this, but let's assume that's true. My guess would be that that is a cherry pick number, because you might, you know, again, we had the same thing with that commuter rail I was talking about where they said that too, you know, this is, you know, they're going to have to demolish homes or demolish buildings to put the train line through.

And they did. And those homes and those businesses were. And then once the train was finished, they built many, many more homes and businesses that had been lost along that train line. So, okay. 200 plus businesses and homes lost in this poster, but how many are added? What's the net total? Is it? Is it a thousand?

Is it 10,000? Are we, have we actually lost anything? So, you know, this is, this is one of those things that, you know, there's even, there's another group ugly lid above Sepulveda for five miles. It's like, well, you're saying it's ugly. It looks like a [00:36:00] nice picture there. It looks cool. So, you know, again, this is kinda what I was saying before, is that all you really need to do to get people to vote no is just plant that little seed of, well, maybe this isn't a good idea for, for whatever reason.

You know, whether it's playing into those. Fears of, you know, who are these people that are going to be coming on this train? And again, even if they're not actively thinking, you know, about what that means to them, there's societal pressures that make people think a certain way when you say that you know, this, these kinds of things can be really effective because you just look at, Oh, I saw this thing.

It said, the train's going to ruin our community. So I shouldn't vote for it. It's a quote, but what does that, what does that mean? What, what is, what's happening? What is this thing actually going to do? Is that even true? So yeah, I would say if you're someone who's seeing these kind of posters and seeing these kind of ads from, from either side, honestly, this is just general critical thinking to apply to things.

If you see something that, you know, it's the middle section here. There's three points, ugly lid above Sepulveda, [00:37:00] construction nightmare, ruins our community. What does any of that actually mean in terms of the outcome, in terms of what's going to happen? This is just someone saying this, and they've got a concept art picture on there.

So just, my advice to people would be, you know, just, if you see stuff like this, just, just think about it. And think about, you know, what am I actually reading? If those kind of things that are very editorial, you can kind of disregard it. Because this is just whoever made this. This, this poster's idea of what this means, you know, again, going back to another project in another city I lived in with the Big Dig in Boston they took the highway that used to cut directly through the center of downtown and run along the water.

And they buried it underground and made a tunnel that goes out of the city instead. And where that highway used to be is now the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway. It's a, it's a long kind of narrow park that runs through basically the entire city, the entire downtown part of the city. And it is beautiful. It's incredible.

[00:38:00] And all of the businesses there have thrived. They, I've, I've read articles about this where they've talked about how. The revenue and the taxes and everything else that has come in from having done this was, it makes it one of the best public works projects that has ever happened in American history.

but when it was, when it was actually happening it's, a hundred million dollars over budget. It's late. It's, you know, this, these panels in the tunnel broke and they had to replace them. And it's, it's nothing but complaints, but then when it actually happens, it's like, well, this is the greatest thing that's ever happened.

You know? So yeah. It's tough because I, I do understand why, you know, you don't want, if you, you know, if you live near a project like this, especially or any other project, why you wouldn't want, you know, your commute or your you know, the noise to be disrupting your, your day to day life. I get it. I totally do.

It's disruptive, but at the end of the day, if we want to improve things, we have to change things. So, you know, again, look at these kinds of things with a [00:39:00] critical eye, first of all, and also just think about the. The long term gain to, you know, okay, is it, would you rather sit in traffic for three hours a day, every day for the rest of your life, or would you rather have, you know, a year of annoying noise and construction outside your house and then never have to do that again, you know, it's, that's kind of what I would push people to think about is just really.

Just, and if you come to the conclusion that, Hey, I want to sit in three hours of traffic for the rest of my life. Okay, fine. Yeah, that's, I disagree, but okay. Like, as long as you came to that conclusion thoughtfully and critically, like, all right, great. We can, we can have that conversation. But yeah, that's really the main thing I would push people to understand is, you know, think about the long term impacts, think about the net goals, you know, not again, this 200 businesses lost, okay, or homes lost.

Right. But then we'll add 500 after it's done. So we've actually gained 300, right? So yeah, that's, that's really what I push people to do is just think of when you see these kinds [00:40:00] of things, take them all with a grain of salt. And again, this is on, this is on both sides. You know, people exaggerate on, on, on every side of, of how good things are gonna be or how bad things are gonna be, or how bad things currently are.

Look into the real numbers, think about, how this is actually gonna impact you, impact your community in the long term as well. Don't just immediately see something on Facebook or, you know, on Instagram or, or TikTok or whatever, and then immediately say, well, that's, that's now my internalized position.

Just spend a little more time thinking about it. And especially when you see things like this poster, which says, you know, construction nightmare, according to who, you know, and you know, rolling my eyes.

Awoe: Yes. Before we move into sort of like the conclusion, I wanted to just make one more point sort of this talking to climate a little bit.

I recently read The Great Displacement by Jake Bittle. It's a book that talks about the impact of. Climate hazards, destroying communities, whether it's hurricanes or flooding or drought or [00:41:00] wildfires and how that Displaces people, people can no longer live in these communities and they are forced to then move to other neighborhoods, other cities, you know, and causing growth to happen in these other neighborhoods.

And like we've mentioned earlier, we, there's an affordable housing shortage. There's this housing crisis. There are more people looking for housing than their supply is available. Yet we have folks who are NIMBYs who prevent, whether it's transit or into development, whether it's more metro, more transit or more housing and I guess like part of, ultimately, like what fostering our earth and this idea of like, when we think about our sustainable future, climate is going to force people to move and it's important that like, The laws that we put in place now, whether it's allowing zoning, changing zoning to enable more housing to be built, because, unfortunately, hazards are gonna happen, people are gonna be forced to move, and if they were moving and we haven't prepared enough, if we haven't made a world where it's easy to build housing, you know, we're gonna have people who are [00:42:00] stuck experiencing homelessness without shelter and really, that's the future that we're really heading towards. And so we need to work now so that in 10 years, 15, 20 years, which they'll come up quickly , when people are forced to move, we're, we're ready for those changes and we're ready for.

You know, people to have and keep their right to shelter, you know?

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